How to Plan the Ultimate Trip to Marfa, Texas
Everything you need to know before your epic trip to West Texas’s quirkiest town
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Marfa isn’t a town you just stumble upon. The West Texas desert destination is pretty much in the middle of nowhere (the closest airport is a 3-hour drive). While many go to get away from it all, you’re also right in the thick of it, immersed in art, culture, and locals with a passion to create. Bring clothes and shoes built for the dusty desert (it can get cold at night), actual cash (ATMs are limited), maybe a map (cell service is spotty), and an adventurous spirit. Oh, and don’t plan your stay for a Monday or Tuesday, when next to nothing will be open.
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Stay in a Design-Forward Rental
Marfa lodgings range from hipster trailer park El Cosmico to the posh Hotel Saint George, but to really drink the cool-aid, a rental is the way to go. Big on kitschy décor, custom furnishings, chic chandeliers, and actual art on the walls, abodes like Faxonia, Modern + Minimal, and, for larger parties, Casa Grande (up to 13 guests) reflect the artsy, indie spirit of the town. You can also now rent the Brite Building (pictured), El Cosmico’s swanky two-bedroom apartment offering right downtown, daily housekeeping and mini bar included.
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Get Acquainted with Donald Judd
Minimalist artist Donald Judd put Marfa on the map back in the ‘70s when he left New York to create permanent works in the vast, untouched desert. The result: The Chianti Foundation, a 340-acre former Army base that houses his large-scale concrete and aluminum installations; and Judd Foundation, Judd’s private residence and studio known as “The Block.” Open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, no reservation is necessary to see Judd’s boxes ($10) and his 15 concrete works (free); otherwise book tours in advance.
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Caffeinate in Style
There’s no Starbucks in Marfa, but there’s better. Do Your Thing (pictured), located at The Lumberyard, serves up savory Texas toast and Oaxacan iced coffee with a side of vintage décor. At Frama you’ll find locally-roasted Big Bend Coffee beans, nitro cold brew, and Texas-made Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream. It’s side-by-side with sister space Tumbleweed Laundry (lattes and laundry!) and one of the only places in town open Monday and Tuesday.
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It’s not what are you going to buy, but what aren’t you going to buy. Between Freda (hip lifestyle shop), Communitie (handmade hats and clothes), Mano (western shirts, vintage items, and local art), El Cosmico Provision Company (bandanas, posters, and palo santo), Marfa Brand Soap Factory & Shop (amazing soap), and Cobra Rock (badass boots), your suitcase will runneth over. Bring an extra.
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With more art galleries in town than traffic lights (well, okay, there is only one stoplight), art is king in Marfa. See Andy Warhol’s “Last Supper” at Ayn Foundation, emerging artists at Rule Gallery, installations by eleven American artists at 2d Marfa, and thought-provoking conceptual works at Ballroom Marfa, including Stone Circle, an outdoor array that lights up with each full moon.
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Take a Selfie
Marfa might just be the greatest selfie destination, ever! Snap a pic in front of Prada Marfa, a fake storefront off U.S. 90 about 25 miles outside Marfa in Valentine. Ditto for the “Greetings from Marfa” mural outside Frama coffee and “See Mystery Lights” sign at Thunderbird Hotel.
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All that art perusing can make you hungry. For one of the best burritos you’ll ever eat, Marfa Burrito is a must-stop, authentic Tex-Mex joint where everything is homemade, down to the salsas and tortillas (Matthew McConaughey’s been there). Food Shark is equally delish, a lunch-only Middle Eastern food truck famous for their “Marfalafel,” a hefty falafel wrapped in a giant tortilla. Eat at the outdoor tables or in the old converted bus (Beyoncé’s been there). Just bring your pesos because these eateries are cash-only.
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Fine-Dine in the Desert
Not all food in Marfa is wrapped in a tortilla. At Stellina, sit at the wraparound bar and order up roasted corn gazpacho and raised lamb shank paired with the perfect wine. Cochineal serves up inspired food with local flair, like charred avocado ceviche and bison tartare. And you can’t go wrong with a hibiscus margarita and tempura fried yucca blossoms on the twinkle-lit patio at Capri.
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Hunker Down at a Watering Hole
Lost Horse Saloon is the best kind of dive bar, where cowboy hat-clad locals mix with big town tourists—throw in a Kevin Bacon sighting, too. Play free pool, drink $1 drafts all day Thursdays, and by all means order “Ranch Water,” a concoction of tequila, lime juice, and Topo Chico. Open weekends only is Planet Marfa, a beer garden with a teepee and live music that’s about as close to a beach bar as you’ll get in West Texas (closed Thanksgiving to March).